Thinly sliced: USDA sued over axed organic welfare rules, L.A. Weekly food event thwarted by journalists, and more

This is the web version of a list we publish twice-weekly in our newsletter. It comprises the most noteworthy food stories of the moment, selected by our editors. Get it first here.

Working while French. Can a restaurant fire a waiter for being too French? Guillaume Rey, who used to work at a restaurant in Vancouver, is trying to convince British Columbia’s Human Rights Tribunal that being “aggressive, rude and disrespectful” isn’t a fireable offense. It’s just his national character, and to fire him for that reason would be akin to “discrimination against [his] culture.” In the United States, as we’ve reported, the murky area between national origin and job duties can lead to civil rights violations. Merde! has the story on the Frenchman’s complaint.

Got milked? Small Wisconsin dairies are feeling squeezed in an organic milk market dominated by Texas giants, USA Today reports. While small farmers still claim to be doing well, their returns are reportedly shrinking as large producers enter the fray. Economies of scale are one factor, though some have argued standards can be more slippery for the big guys: As we reported earlier this year, critics have accused mega milk producers like Aurora Dairy of failing to live up to outdoor access standards required by USDA.

Stop right there. The Trump administration is facing a lawsuit over its recent decision to withdraw organic animal welfare rules, according to the The Hill. As we previously reported, USDA axed the Obama-era standards on March 12, after initially announcing the withdrawal in December 2017. The rules, had they remained in place, would have established clear animal welfare requirements for organic poultry and livestock—for example, organic laying hens would have been required to each have at least a full square foot of space indoors, and screened porches would no longer have qualified as “outdoor access.” The federal agency’s reasoning for the withdrawal? That it never had the authority to implement these regulations in the first place, a claim the suit contests. What’s one more lawsuit for this administration at this point?

Sweet tooth. We all knew that microchipping would eventually make its way to humans. But who would have thought we’d get chipped in our mouths? An engineering team at Tufts University has invented a tooth implant that supposedly detects the salt, sugar, and alcohol in what you’re eating and can transmit dietary data to your phone, Ars Technica reports. But that’s kind of where this sidewalk ends right now. The device isn’t sophisticated enough to track calories or quantity of food eaten—yet. One day, it may be the demise of MyFitnessPal, but that day is not today. And anyways, we don’t need a tooth implant to know that we’re gluttons.

The force awakens. Local journalism is on the ropes as billionaire owners and activist investors gut newsrooms across the country, from Gothamist to the Denver PostL.A. Weekly, the beloved alt-weekly, was recently bought by an Orange County-based group of lawyers and real estate investors who laid off 75 percent of the editorial staff, replacing fresh criticism and investigative reporting with repackaged copy and suspiciously cheery puff pieces.

But at last, some good news: Days before it was scheduled to take place, L.A. Weekly has canceled its Essentials event, which had been its marquee food event for over ten years, Eater reports. The paper hasn’t issued a comment yet, but in all likelihood, the cancellation was due to the crusading of Boycott LA Weekly, a campaign led by former staff and freelancers to convince restaurants and advertisers to stop supporting the paper. The ultimate goal? Restoring a strong and free press. Selling the paper to people who actually live in Los Angeles would be a good start.